An alien in India

Recently, there was an out of town visit on family business, and a very long drive. There were sights too, of verdant hills and dells awash with green, and a roadway through the forest. But as anticipated though, a long drive meant halts for lunch. The first place we found was nestled in a grove of glistening trees. Calm, quiet. I could hear the birdsong in the air, and feel the light brush of the breeze. The restaurant itself appeared idyllic, a little haven amongst the green.

The first little surprise came when we asked for a table. The supercilious waiter dismissed our request for an outdoor table, and insisted there were none. Instead, a table within, backed against the wall was indicated. Not a bad beginning. However, when food was ordered, none was forthcoming. Ten minutes passed, then fifteen, and then, twenty, and finally, forty. And still, nothing. Calling the waiter didn’t help, as they insisted the food was being prepared. Around my table, though, everybody it seemed was being served.

Including those who came after us. There weren’t many people dining in anyway, so what was the problem? By now, the supercilious waiter had made himself a mythical creature, nowhere to be found.

And the food? Still no signs of it. For my table, that is. The foreign tourists relished their food as they were served in double quick time. Yes, words were exchanged but the restaurant was unmoved. Not even enough to serve the food. Obviously, beautiful scenery did very little to enable good service. A couple of hours from this dreamy yet insolent place was another restaurant sandwiched between buildings and shops. It was crowded, merry and surrounded by concrete. Very few tables were available but my family and I got one anyway.

The biggest difference? Despite the crowd and the many people waiting to be served,  there was instant attention, meticulous taking of orders, quick service, and genuine warmth. It didn’t matter that there were a lot of customers. It didn’t matter what we ordered, it was served quickly and enthusiastically. In essence, despite the buildings looming over the parking lot outside, this was a much better experience.

In retrospect, I wonder why the first restaurant we visited displayed airs that would have befitted a snob. A colonial hangover, maybe? For starters, there were only a few Indians there at the time. We just happened to be among them. Tourists took up most of the space, and they seemed content, appreciative of the service and enjoying the abundant beauty of nature.

Why is it that an Indian is given the cold shoulder in her own country? What is it that causes incidents like this, incidents that border on insults? The second restaurant had no such qualms. Perhaps there are sensible and warm people in the world after all.

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